Health and health care news

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The parents of a Lewiston Middle School student who died by suicide this week say their daughter’s story reveals a complete breakdown in Maine’s mental health system. Anie Graham’s parents say there should be distinct protocols to help kids at risk of suicide, and properly trained providers who are available to help.

Another Small Maine Hospital to Stop Delivering Babies

May 24, 2017

CALAIS, Maine — Calais Regional Hospital will close its obstetrics department, a move that will leave Washington County with just one hospital fully equipped to deliver newborns.

Since 2007, the hospital’s delivery rate has dropped from more than 100 births annually to just 60 last year, according to a statement from Calais Regional. That decline, coupled with a shortage of nursing staff, lead to “heavy financial losses” in the obstetrics department that the board determined the hospital can no longer sustain, the hospital said.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Bills to create a uniform teacher contract across the state are set for key committee votes.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage says such an idea would help rural districts compete for teachers.

Bills sponsored by GOP Reps. Matt Pouliot and Jeffrey Timberlake are set for work sessions Tuesday.

Pouliot says his bill would maintain local control while creating a uniform compensation system based upon performance results.

Timberlake says Maine shouldn't just throw more money at education.

Maine’s insurance co-op, Community Health Options, is back in the black after sustaining operating losses of nearly $90 million in the past two years.

A report from Maine’s Bureau of Insurance says in the first quarter of 2017, Community Health Options had a surplus of $3.7 million. The co-op’s Mike Gendreau says the company was able to pull itself out of a deficit by reducing administrative costs, increasing rates and educating members on when to go a doctor’s office or clinic instead of the emergency room.

FILE: Sen. Angus King I-Maine, attends the christening ceremony for the USS Raphael Peralta, the 35th Arleigh Burke Class Missile Destroyer to be built by Bath Iron Works, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, in Bath, Maine.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File

Bangor-area residents took their concerns over the impact of the Republican-led American Health Care Act directly to Independent Maine Sen. Angus King today during a listening session at the Bangor Public Library. The event was organized by the AARP, an advocacy group for 50-plus Americans, and King said that while the measure cleared the U.S. House earlier this month, how the bill will fare in the GOP-controlled Senate remains to be seen.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The LePage administration is seeking federal permission to change the eligibility rules for MaineCare, the state version of Medicaid. If approved, able-bodied adults would have to meet work requirements and chip in on their health care.

State officials say the changes would make the program financially stable and help enrollees become self-sufficient. But at a public comment hearing in Portland on Wednesday, those opposed say the changes will cut access to health care, which contradicts the real purpose of Medicaid.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Under the Republican-backed health care plan passed by the U.S. House earlier this month, the federal Medicaid program would undergo a major overhaul. States would receive a fixed amount of money for the program, versus the open-ended federal support they now get.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 34,000 Americans contracted hepatitis C in 2015. Maine has also seen an increase in reported infections.

Cases of acute hepatitis C nearly tripled nationally from 2010 to 2015, according to the CDC. Maine’s rate also tripled within that time frame, and state epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett says it’s likely connected to another public health issue.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

A day after House Republicans passed their health care overhaul bill, the spotlight is now on the U.S. Senate. Advocacy groups for Maine physicians, hospitals and consumers say the American Health Care Act would have disastrous consequences for patients and are looking to the Senate to fix it.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District, who opposed the bill, says advocacy groups aren’t the only ones looking to the Senate to improve the AHCA. She says some House Republicans are as well.

Mal Leary / Maine Public

House Republicans Thursday passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. An earlier version of the bill had failed to garner enough votes, but the addition of two new amendments drew enough support for passage.

Some over-the-counter medications contain compounds that can be used to make methamphetamine. Supporters and opponents of a bill that would require a prescription to get those medications turned out a public hearing Wednesday at the State House.

Amy Gallant of AARP says requiring a prescription for those drugs will be a hardship for many, including those who care for the elderly.

Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press/file

As House Republicans in Washington work to garner enough votes to pass a revised health care bill, one sticking point is whether to continue to provide affordable coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Ten community organizations around the state will share $1.5 million in grants from the Maine Health Access Foundation to create or expand medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.

The Penobscot Community Health Care center in Bangor is among those benefiting from the award, and it will use the money to develop a regional, rapid-access clinic as part of its primary care services.

CDC: Maine Has Nation's Highest Rate of Asbestos Deaths

Apr 20, 2017
U.S. Geological Survey

Cancer linked to asbestos is killing residents in Maine at the highest rate in the country, decades after the implementation of federal regulations to limit exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers can cause malignant mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly cancer that most often develops in the tissue surrounding the lungs.

The disease is difficult to treat, and is often advanced by the time symptoms appear.

Irwin Gratz / Maine Public

PORTLAND, Maine - How do we get - and keep - people healthy? Some would say a visit to the doctor is a must. But Ron Deprez, president of the Public Health Research Institute in Deer Isle, tells Irwin Gratz that’s only part of the answer. The rest is detailed in a recent Maine Policy Review article Deprez wrote entitled “Population Health Improvement.” Here's an excerpt of their conversation.